Botanical Name: Aesculus x carnea
Species: A. × carnea
Common Names: Red Horse Chestnut, Ruby Red Horsechestnut
Habitat: The origin of the tree is not known yet, but it probably first appeared in Germany before 1820. A cultivated hybrid of garden origin, A. hippocastanum x A. pavia. The hybrid is a medium-size tree to 20–25 m tall, intermediate between the parent species in most respects, but inheriting the red flower color from A. pavia. It is a popular tree in large gardens and parks.
Aesculus x carnea is a deciduous Tree growing to a height 30.00 to 40.00 feet and Spread 25.00 to 35.00 feet at a slow rate.
It is not frost tender. It is in flower in July, and the seeds ripen in September. The flower color is red. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
Aesculus × carnea is the result of a cross between A. hippocastanum and A. pavia that was discovered in Europe in 1812. It is a small, oval to rounded, deciduous tree that grows 30-40’ tall, and is perhaps best noted for its attractive red flowers. It features dark green palmate compound leaves with 5 (less frequently 7) spreading ovate-oblong leaflets (6-10” long). Leaflets have doubly-toothed margins. Fall color is somewhat undistinguished. Very showy red flowers appear in upright terminal panicles (to 6-8” long) in mid-spring (May in St. Louis). Flowers are followed by slightly prickly husky capsules (1.5” diameter), each typically containing two or three nuts. Nuts are poisonous.
Landscape Uses:Pest tolerant, Pollard, Specimen, Street tree. Prefers a deep loamy well-drained soil but is not too fussy. The dormant tree tolerates temperatures down to at least -15°c, though the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. It prefers a continental climate, growing best in eastern and south-eastern England. There are some named forms selected for their ornamental value. Most members of this genus transplant easily, even when fairly large. Abnormal cell development in this species may result in eruptions on trunks over 30cm in diameter – these ultimately decay. Although a hybrid species, it breeds true from seed due to a doubling of the chromosomes. Special Features:Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Blooms are very showy.
Seed – cooked. It can be dried, ground into a flour and used as a gruel. The seed is quite large, about 20mm in diameter, and is also easily harvested. Unfortunately, it is rich in saponins and these toxins need to be removed before the seed can be eaten. See also the notes above on toxicity. The following notes apply to A. californica, but are probably also relevant here:- The seed needs to be leached of toxins before it becomes safe to eat – the Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 – 5 days. Most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out by this treatment.
The plant is used in Bach flower remedies – the keywords for prescribing it are ‘Excessive fear’ and ‘Anxiety for others
Saponins in the seed are a soap substitute. The saponins can be easily obtained by chopping the seed into small pieces and infusing them in hot water. This water can then be used for washing the body, clothes etc. Its main drawback is a lingering odour of horse chestnuts.
The seed is rich in saponins. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching the seed or flour in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.